Absolutely Delicious: A Chronicle of Extraordinary Dying

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After a life marbled with exploration, academia, and domesticity, the writer Valerie Lester retired to a residential hospice and set about enjoying the final act of her life. Yes. Enjoying. She knew just where she wanted to be, with whom, doing what, and she communicated this to her family and friends with clarity and consistency. She died nine weeks later, having engaged in dying with equanimity, curiosity, and even amusement.

Absolutely Delicious: A Chronicle of Extraordinary Dying describes the months novelist Alison Jean Lester spent with her mother. Motivated to write the book because of how her mother faced the fact that her cancer was terminal, and how she chose to approach the end of her life with the same positive energy with which she had lived, Lester shares the emotional, medical, logistical and social aspects of this extraordinary experience.

The book also includes a chapter on the death of her father, who faced his own terminal illness, ALS (motor neurone disease), with a similar rejection of extreme life-prolonging measures and with the desire to spend his final days in peace, nine years before. There is a chapter, too, on Lester's aunt, who died three months after her mother, having taken a very different approach to the idea, and the reality, of dying.

Woven into the narrative are poems both by the author and her mother, as they shared the impulse to grapple with life's challenges through poetry. The book is interspersed with diverse, emotional illustrations by artist and graphic designer Mary Ann Frye. A good friend of both the author and her mother, Frye processed the death of her friend in drawings while the author was processing it in words.

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Bench Press
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